High support units should be in all prisons, jury says

Inquest concludes a verdict of suicide for prisoner (25) found dead in his cell in 2013

High support units should be introduced in all prisons and staff should get ongoing training on mental health issues , a jury has recommended at the inquest of a young man who took his own life in jail.

It also said there should be an improved exchange of information between medical and prison staff.

The jury returned a verdict of death by suicide in the case of 25-year-old father of three, Roy O'Driscoll from Summerhill in Mallow, Co Cork who died from asphyxia after he was found by suspended by a ligature in his medical observation cell on D Wing at Cork Prison on May 10th, 2013.

The Cork City Coroner’s Court, the jury also commended the Irish Prison Service on its Psychology Strategy but urged that more funding be made available for the strategy as one of a number of recommendations made in the wake of Mr O’Driscoll’s death.


Mr O'Driscoll had been serving a seven year sentence for assault. He had been in Portlaoise Prison where, a day before his transfer to Cork Prison on May 1st , he was assessed by medical staff as being at "an unprecedented risk" of suicide.

The inquest heard that Mr O'Driscoll was interviewed by prison nurse, Una Twomey, when he arrived in Cork Prison on May 1st.

He had asked to go to the Central Mental Hospital as he said his family wanted him to go there but denied any intent to self harm.

Dr George O’Mahony GP told how he saw Mr O’Driscoll on May 2nd amid concerns that his mood was low.

Dr O’Mahony said he had recommended that Mr O’Driscoll be transferred to the isolation D wing as he wanted to get away from people and he believed he would settle down there after a few weeks.

Former prison psychiatrist, Dr Eugene Morgan assessed Mr O'Driscoll on May 3rd and 4th and found him confused.

Dr Morgan said while he had fleeting thoughts of self harm he did not believe he was actively suicidal and recommended he remain in a medical observation cell rather than a padded cell.

The inquest heard that prison officers are not informed why a prisoner is put in a medical observation cell as such information is only given to medical staff in the prison because of a prisoner’s entitlement to confidentiality regarding their medical history.

A prisoner could be placed in a medical observation cell, where they are checked every 15 minutes, for some physical condition that they are suffering from as well as some mental health issue such as tendency towards self-harm or having suicidal thoughts, the inquest heard.

The inquest heard Mr O’Driscoll was checked at 2.10pm on the day in question and was sitting on his bed.

But prison officer David Keogh said when he went to collect cutlery from him at 2.20pm, he found him suspended by a ligature from a TV frame and, despite attempts at resuscitation, he died.

Cork City Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane thanked the jury for their four recommendations before extending her sympathies to Mr O'Driscoll's family on their tragic loss.

Anyone affected by suicide can contact the Samaritans on 116 123 or by email at jo@samaritans.org or Aware on 1800 804848.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times